The post-soviet region: relations in the triangle Europe-Russia-Turkey


The post-soviet region: relations in the triangle Europe-Russia-Turkey

Эксперты МГИМО: Кудряшова Юлия Сергеевна, к.ист.н.

From the last wave of the EU’s enlargement the debate about the frontiers of this regional organization took on special acuity. Confirming the theory about endless EU’s enlargement some EU’s members advocate the admission of new countries. Above all it is imposed by demands of more effective economy and ambitions of global actor. This organization was created in order to build United Europe of general welfare. Of course this organization rates by its neighbors in Eastern Europe, Balkans and even in the Middle East as the guarantee of prosperity and problem-solving of these developing countries. The debate about further EU’s enlargement includes a number of global questions: political, economic, geographic, religious. There is no simple answer on these questions.

Turkey is the most problem candidate to the EU. Turkey is powerful Middle Eastern state in terms of policy and economy which hard and in series strives for EU accession. While Turkey by its potential accession constitutes a global challenge to the idea of United Europe. The issue of Turkey’s EU accession is postponed under different pretexts.

Turkey is one of the most important partners of Russia and the EU in the post-soviet region. Above all Turkey is important for the EU as a potential regional economic leader and the rest of stability on the geopolitical crossroad of Europe, the Middle East and the south zone of CIS. Practically Turkey is a key military power at the turn of Europe and the Middle East. The importance of Turkey as a strategic partner of the EU will be just growing since Europe aims at obtaining admittance to new markets and sources of raw materials in the Middle East and Central Asia.

Brussels readily uses for its own purposes Turkey’s influence in the Black and Caspian Sea regions and in the Caucasus. I mean different initiatives in the field of free trade, economic development, regional security and human rights. However the most important issue is the creation of uncontrolled by Russia energy transportation routes from Central Asia. Meanwhile EU legal norms prohibit the domination of one country in the energy field of the Common Market. As consequence of it Turkish options of pipelines’ construction are strenuously advocated. These pipelines would be constructed in order to pump Azerbaijani and Central Asian energy resources to the West. These routes are attractive for the new independent states, because they destroy Russian monopoly in hydrocarbon supplies based on its infrastructure.

Russia could not blockade Turkish routes of Caspian energy supply export to Europe. However appears the issue of filling with resources the pipelines bypassing Russian territory. Alternative sources of energy resources have not defined yet. Iran and Iraq are characterized by high instability. Because of this the EU can not perceive them as key partners. Lion’s share of Caspian countries’ resources is sold to Russia for further transportation into Europe.

Such a strategic project as the South Stream can play a vital part in the development of Russian-Turkish cooperation in the energy field. The South Stream is all-important in the context of developing comprehensive contacts between Russia and Turkey. Though opponents to the South Stream project assert that the pipelining which will simpliciter connect Russia with Europe will only increase dependence on Moscow. But the South Stream project without Turkish participation will reduce Ankara’s concernment as a large energy hub providing with energy supply for Europe. Turkey ranks third after Germany and Italy in a purchase amount of Russian natural gas. The share of energy carries in Russian export to Turkey comes to 70%. Russian participation in the Samsun-Ceyhan project will promote Turkish port Ceyhan turning into a first-rate terminal.

Turkey positions its territory as a reliable transit holding alley which can convey to Europe both Russian and not Russian gas in case of a supply crisis. Ankara aims to make of Turkey a regional energy junction. Transit income will be heavy income item of Turkish budget. Besides participating in ceiling amount of energy projects Turkey consolidates its transit leadership. At the same time anxiety emerges that Moscow falls into unwarranted dependence on Ankara. In other words Turkey would be the purchaser of Caspian gas in order to resell it next to European consumers. In that case Ankara together with the EU’s countries will advocate the price-cutting of Russian energy supply. As a result on the matter of energy infrastructure creating Turkey will find itself in the conflict of interest with Russia. Although Turkish attempts to become the center of energy supply transit to Europe do not guaranty the reinforcement of its positions in the accession process.

From the political point of view the very fact of the beginning of negotiations between Brussels and Ankara significantly influences the situation in the whole post-soviet region. Russian-Turkish relations are developing in a complicated manner, mutual distrust still exists, and many regional problems are not settled. Simultaneously Russia is not concerned at all with Turkish expansion in the Eurasian region. The rapprochement between Turkey and the EU competes with integration projects supported by Russia. One can expect that Turkey’s EU accession will give hope to the new independent states. Inspired by Ankara’s achievements these states will undoubtedly activate their integration efforts in the EU direction. With the EU’s financial assistance Ankara’s influence in this territory will be maximized.

Doubtless Turkey tries to increase its role as a regional leader in the South Caucasus lately. The military agreement signed by Turkey and Azerbaijan recently demonstrates that Turkey attempts to find itself in more serious influence in the region. At the same time Turkey becomes an important counterbalance against Russian domination in the Caucasus. The Russian Federation keeps its military presence in Armenia. This factor impedes the realization of possible Azerbaijani aggressive intentions and do not give Turkey which is ally to Azerbaijan to support Baku’s plans against Armenia. If the border between Armenia and Turkey becomes the border between Armenia and the EU, the presence of Russian military bases in this country loses its geopolitical meaning and purpose. One should not forget in this context that Yerevan is the member of the Eastern Partnership program. In its turn Ankara will have to follow the EU’s Common Foreign and Security Policy (CFSP). The participation of both countries in the EU’s institutional structures will minimize the probability of conflicts between them and will even make them to establish partnership. Mostly under the EU’s pressure Ankara has already undertaken some steps to improve the relations with Yerevan.

However in this respect Azerbaijan being a sister nation with Turkey expresses its dissatisfaction. Baku was indignant at the fact that Turkey had begun the normalization process with Armenia contrary to undetermined territorial conflict in the Nagorniy Karabakh. Existing situation fostered closer Russian-Azerbaijani rapprochement. As a result Azerbaijan took a skeptic stand concerning «Nabucco» and emphasized Russia and Iran as priority directions of its gas export. Ankara should take into account that normalizing its relations with Yerevan will be assessed by Baku as betrayal. As a consequence the trust of other Turkic states, which Turkey tries to patronize, to Ankara will be undermined. At the same time the EU is interested in Turkey mostly due to Ankara’s influence in the Caspian Sea region. So in case of qualitative improvement in Turkish-Armenian relations Ankara may find itself in the complicated situation. Undeniably Turkey will never reject the Nagorniy Karabakh problem. Clearly Turkey is Azerbaijan’s ally.

As regards the Caspian and Central Asian states. Turkey succeeded in marking its presence in the Turkic states and intensifying distinctly economic and cultural contacts. However hopes of becoming their main political and economic partner didn’t justify. Among rationales should be mentioned lack of common frontiers, new sovereign nation leaders’ unwillingness to place themselves under the authority of who ever it may be again, Russian presence in the region.

It is also worth mentioning the positive moments of Turkey’s integration with the EU. Moscow plays a remarkable part almost in all energy projects and geopolitical calculations of Ankara. Above all at present Russian-Turkish business-like cooperation actively develops not depending on the participation of both countries in whatever regional organizations. Turkey is second after Germany Russian commercial partner on trading volume. Russia is one of the most important Ankara’s partners as a supplier of row materials, industrial products and military technologies and as a consumer of Turkish goods and services. As energy issues occupy an increasingly important place in regional policy of both countries and their relations with Europe, undoubtedly strategic significance of Russian-Turkish rapprochement will rise. Energy basis of Russian-Turkish relations promotes political bridging in the whole region. In this context Turkey’s membership in the European Common Market widens the scope of opportunities for multilateral projects with Russian participation. It is in Russian interests that Turkey correspondents to the West-European economic standards.

Moreover Turkey’s perspective of the EU membership restrains large-scale islamization of Turkish society. And in this context the rapprochement between Ankara and Brussels is for Russia’s advantage. Moscow is not interested in consolidating Turkish Islam’s position and strengthening its influence near Russian borders. Besides it is more advantageous for Moscow to develop the relations with the state, which coordinates its foreign policy with Brussels. In this context the possibility of confrontation with Turkish nationalists is excluded.

In the last time Turkish-Russian cooperation is developing quite effectively. The mutual trust between both states is increasing. During Russian-Georgian conflict Ankara has demonstrated that it was a reliable partner for Moscow. Turkish prime-minister Erdogan expressed solidarity to Russia in view of the situation in the South Ossetia. Turkey’s position in this conflict was also close to the principals of EU’s CFSP. Ankara supported EU’s intermediary role in the settlement of Russian-Georgian conflict and Sarkozy-Medvedev agreements. It is indicative that Turkey impeded the passage of US worships through the Black Sea straits. Ankara behaved in this way mostly because it did not want the Black Sea to become «NATO’s inner lake». Besides Turkey is not interested in Georgia’s strengthening due to the appearance of NATO’s bases. In this case Tbilisi would turn into a geopolitical rival of Ankara in the Black Sea region as a privileged US partner. As opposed to Georgia Turkey permits itself to act in the international arena independently of the USA and even in contradiction with the US interests. Earlier Turkey supported the EU position on Iraq, refusing to back the USA. This can be explained by Turkish opposition to US-initiated strengthening of Kurdish administration in Iraq.

On the basis of the foregoing one can draw a conclusion that Turkish policy in the northern as well as in the southern direction is close to CFSP. Simultaneously Ankara is demonstrating partnership relations with Moscow. Russia and Turkey share common vision based on economic cooperation, trade, power budget and stability in the Caucasus. All this creates the preconditions for creating a working structure guaranteeing regional security in the triangle: the EU-Russia-Turkey.

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